I’m spending a week at the beach without J.  It’s the same beach where we have gone for the last 25 years or so. I was on automatic when I made the reservation back in January. It didn’t occur to me that it wouldn’t make sense to bring her, even though it was so difficult to have her here last year that I called a friend in tears and begged her to come down and help me. 

One of the rituals of being here has been to frequent a particular ice cream shop with the best frozen custard I have ever had. It is thick and rich and has none of the artificial flavor of most commercial custard.  Our kids grew up chatting with the proprietors, Tom and Joe. Last year, Tom wasn’t there and I inquired of Joe. Tom, who couldn’t have been older than his early 50s, had died of a massive heart attack. This year, Joe showed me his scar from heart surgery he had during the off season. “I shouldn’t be alive,” he said. 

This, combined with J’s inability to come to the beach this year because of the advancement of her Alzheimer’s disease, underscored for me how quickly life can change.  We can be so fragile and our futures can be shattered in a moment. 

We are in the Jewish month of Elul, when we take stock of our lives and prepare for the High Holidays. We ask ourselves questions about what serves us well and what we want to change. We have full faith that we can break old patterns.  We are reading the last book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, where Moses retells the story of the Exodus, and what is added is love.

 In this coming year, may I turn towards love, both the giving and the receipt. May I extravagantly let all the important people in my life know what they mean to me. As J’s mother always said, “Love people and tell them so.”

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